In a Trillion Dollars of Pork, Only Scraps for Veterans

When the CARES Act was first being worked on by the Senate, it was for about $800 billion. When it was submitted, it topped $1 trillion. By the time it was done with the House, the bill came out to $2.2 trillion. And in all of that pork, there were only scraps for veterans.

A U.S. Army Kosovo War veteran and Republican candidate for Florida’s 21st district to unseat career Dem pol Lois Frankel, Michael Bluemling, Jr. is going through the bill line-by-line. In an interview, he told Quartermaster News that he was disgusted.

“Twenty-five million dollar raises went to members of Congress — why isn’t that money going to healthcare for veterans?” he asks. (BTW, the Senate also got a $9 million top up — for “misc. expenses.”)

“I’ve gone through $240 billion or so of what was added onto the bill, haven’t seen anything [directly for vets], except for some veteran training resources,” Bluemling said, noting the one line-item for America’s warriors out of $2.3 trillion — $15 million for training.

There was one big money entry for the Veteran’s Administration — not for new hospitals, or diagnostic equipment, or more staff, doctors, nurses, beds, walkers, crutches, or even bandaids or one tablet of Aspirin — but $3 billion for an IT computer upgrade.

“When you have veterans out here who are sick, homeless, dealing with addiction, this is a failure for society and a total money grab.”

“When you have veterans out here who are sick, homeless, dealing with addiction, this is a failure for society and a total money grab.”

In a bill meant for rescuing citizens who lost their livelihoods because their jobs closed to prevent the spread of the virus and even for the largest companies, like the airlines or AMTRAK, that are grounded, the pork added onto the bill was eye-opening.

Odd ball items included a cool $1 billion for the Obamaphones program, which once gave free cellphones to 20 million people; $720 million to social security, with $520 million of that being admin costs; $300 million to National Public Broadcasting (which is still airing fully during the crisis); $100 million to NASA (why not?), $600 million split between National Endowment for the Arts and the Endowment for Humanities, $300 million for migrant refugees, $500 million for museums and libraries, and $25 billion for “transit infrastructure” — like the roads and highways that should be funded from the regular budget, but why pass up a crisis? For that matter, U.S. Postal Service workers are still delivering the mail (albeit wearing plastic gloves), why do they need $20 billion here?

“A fierce advocate for our veterans and their families, fighting for their present and future,” in his own words on his campaign website, Bluemling worked for the Department of Labor and Department of Veteran Affairs before running for office.

“When I worked in government as GS-12, I was focusing on employment law, fought discrimination cases on behalf of veterans, women and those with disabilities,” he said.

“The key to everything is having a job. Not any minimum wage job, but a quality job, inline with a vet’s knowledge, skills and abilities. What’s sad is that veterans are being discriminated against, when they have the best leadership and time management skills.”

Bluemling said that even as companies boast of the percentage of their workforce who were veterans, it’s just based on the application forms for the people who were being hired anyway — rarely are companies actively recruiting a veteran for a job they could excel at if given the opportunity and enough training to start.

“The truth is, many of these same companies are screening to exclude veterans, so they are not to be hired, and we can tell that based on the forms veterans file. That they’ve actually hired whatever percentage of vets they claim is just coincidence.”

“When a veteran doesn’t have a job, families suffer, there’s parental alienation, the family getting broken apart, the vet losing access to the children — it’s the system that needs to be reformed.”

Bluemling also worked for the state of Virginia, leading the Virginia Values Veterans Program, where he helped to create over 30,000 jobs for veterans. For three years, he ran Founded Power of One, a veteran-owned coaching service to help veterans and people in transition, and even wrote a book on the subject, Bridging the Gap from Soldier to Civilian: A Road Map to Success for Veterans, before closing the company to focus on his campaign.

Helping a vet get a job is one thing, but keeping that vet healthy — especially the older generation, including the many Vietnam Vets hobbled by exposure to Agent Orange — needs to be an American priority.

“We have to fix the system, we have to do the work in Congress to get real VA reform and expand real healthcare for vets,” Bluemling said.

“Even with the Veteran Act, for which, if you can’t get an appointment at the VA, you can go to a private doctor via the Choice program, needs to be fixed. A vet needs to be able to get an appointment with a doctor right away.”

“Outside poly trauma, behavioral health, which the VA hospitals do well, they’re not set up for civilian life or sickness — VA hospitals are run as they are on military bases, that’s what they’re good at — saving combat victims.”

“Not run right, the VA is just a money pit for the community. The system is not user friendly, and it needs to be, ” considering the typical case is not triage for a soldier shot in war but how to help a 70-year-old widower with a heart condition and COPD.

“On the battlefield, our motto is ‘leave no one behind’ — compare that to what we’re doing now — we need to do better for our vets, so we don’t leave a veteran behind.”

With the focus on Corona Virus, pork for everyone’s interesting-but-expendable pet issue and constituency, the CARES Act could have done more.

“Veteran issues are getting swept under the rug,” Bluemling told Quartermaster News.

“This is one of the major failures we’re dealing with right now, America can do better.”

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2 COMMENTS

  1. The Swamp is growing and thriving. What happen to the draining? Has all US Leaders jumped in because plenty of money was offered?

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